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The History of Henry Esmond, Esq.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Book Overview: 

A classic Victorian novel and a historical novel rolled into one! Read about court and army life during the reign of Queen Anne – a story of Catholic – Protestant intrigue, and the party which aspired to the restoration of Bonny Prince Charlie. And, a good love story as well.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .d, who was his tutor, and eight years his little lordship's senior, had hard work sometimes to keep his own temper, and hold his authority over his rebellious little chief and kinsman.

In a couple of years after that calamity had befallen which had robbed Lady Castlewood of a little—a very little—of her beauty, and her careless husband's heart (if the truth must be told, my lady had found not only that her reign was over, but that her successor was appointed, a Princess of a noble house in Drury Lane somewhere, who was installed and visited by my lord at the town eight miles off—pudet haec opprobria dicere nobis)—a great change had taken place in her mind, which, by struggles only known to herself, at least never mentioned to any one, and unsuspected by the person who caused the pain she endured—had been schooled into such a condition as she could not very likely have imagined possible a score of months since, before her misfortunes. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Just a story of a guy who really, really, really likes his stately-hot aunt-mom and smokin-hot cousin-sister amid the Jacobite Uprisings and War of Spanish Succession.

It would be hard to find a more virtuous hero than Henry Esmond: finding out that he's not the bastard child he thought he was, but in fact the true heir of a title and fortune, he declines to claim his title and property, leaving it to a sillier, younger man. Or is Henry the less silly man? He moon

This is a rich, complex, but ultimately unsatisfying novel about a young man of principle making his way in the corrupt and luxurious world of the 1700's English aristocracy.

Henry Esmond narrates the story of his own life, and the thing that sinks the novel is that he's always just a little too awa

Thackeray was one of Dickens' rivals... the comparison isn't really fair, since Charles Dickens (being sui generis) has no rivals. Every Dickensian sentence is a shining jewel of the craft. "Henry Esmond", a fine book in every way, nevertheless does have some rough edges.

The action takes place durin

The cover image is not for the one I have, but I couldn't find it. This is a Bantam Classic from 1961. I read the very nice introduction last night.

Read the preface last night. It's a letter from Henry's daughter which brings up some intriguing plot points sure to be covered later. The letter is wri

Published a decade before War & Peace, I can imagine that this historical novel could have been a model for Tolstoy's epic (maybe someone knows?). It's not quite as long but, although the battle scenes, focussed around Marlborough's campaigns and the War of the Spanish Succession, are fewer and less

The History of Henry Esmond was widely considered the best historical novel of its day and often considered the best of Thackeray's novels as well; Trollope, who wrote a biography of his friend Thackeray, calls it his masterpiece. It's set just after the Glorious Revolution, during the reigns of Wil

I found The History of Henry Esmond to be a very challenging and difficult read. Ultimately, it became a frustrating read, and ended with (apologies to T.S. Eliot) a profound whimper and no bang at all.

Perhaps it is because Thackeray's characters lack the presence of Dickens's creations, perhaps it

I came to this book having already read and enjoyed both Vanity Fair and The History of Pendennis: His Fortunes & Misfortunes, His Friends & His Greatest Enemy by the same author and was therefore quite confident in my expectations. However, this was quite a different sort of novel, in that it repre

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